I.S. Guide


Philosophy of Independent Study 独立研究

The Program in Chinese Studies views Independent Study as a process 过程 to develop students’ abilities to reader and write Chinese, and to use the language in different cultural contexts 文化背景. Independent Study marks the culmination of undergraduate study and the point at which students should be prepared to draw on the critical and theoretical insights 文化理论的见解 achieved in courses and their own reading to design a research project that will demonstrate an understanding of texts 文本, culture 文化, and language 文字. The Program of Chinese Studies expects that Independent Study will help students to analyze texts with greater methodological and theoretical sophistication, to sharpen their critical and analytical skills, and to increase their ability to express ideas effectively.

Thesis Prerequisite: Chinese 401 (Junior Independent Study) 三年级论文要求

Chinese 401 (junior independent study) to be completed in Chinese is a prerequisite for beginning the senior independent study project. The course is normally taken in the spring of the junior year or, for students who spend the spring semester of the junior year off campus, in the fall of the junior year. Students who spend the entire junior year off campus could complete 401 through email correspondence with his or her adviser while off campus, through sharing files on Google Doc Drive. The course is generally structured as a tutorial and conducted independently under the direction of a departmental adviser. One long paper (25-30 pages) or an acceptable alternative project is required. The paper may be an analysis or it may explore an area that the student wishes to examine further in the Senior Thesis. Students must select topics that the adviser approves. Translation projects from the original to English may be accepted when the length and level of difficulty are appropriate, with reasons given for translating the work.

Double majors must complete two courses in 401, one in each of the departments.

Assessment Criteria for Chinese 401 (Junior I.S.) 考核标准

• Shows evidence of ability to use sources in the original language such as sound files or short clips found on Youtube;
• Includes careful analysis of primary texts, written and/or read out load on an audio recording;

Methodology and criteria for grading
• Has an original and substantial thesis statement
• Shows a clear and coherent intellectual framework
• demonstrate language proficiency in written communication: the syntax, idioms,  stylistic correctness and good pronunciation if spoken and recorded in an audio file

Past 401 topics

  • a study of the history and rules of loan words from English
  • write a questionnaire and interviews native speakers on perception of America
  • interview for reflections on the Long March of the Red Army along the route
  • Gather first-hand data on Chinese attitudes to religion, literature, politics;
  • study the language of Yunnan Minority Nationality Park on race and ethnicity
  • interviewing women living in Lu Gu Lake about matriarchal society and tradition
  • join and observe new cultural phenomena such as square dance, morning exercise
  • translate narrative film Nuan and add English subtitles to the film
  • translate the lyrics of rock-n-roll songs and interview a Beijing underground rock band
  • investigate the subculture of gay and lesbian lifestyle in Shanghai,
  • interview Buddhists on Buddhism revival in socialist China,
  • Investigate members of host family on attitudes to divorce, premarital sex,
  • study literature and publication on Uyghur situation in Xinjiang
  • study CCP proceedings and official publications on U.S.-China relations
  • review documents by Chinese government on crisis of Taiwan straight during 1950s
  • investigate internet censorship (fire wall) by Chinese government and its effectiveness
  • study official press release on China’s investments in Africa
  • examine Chinese fashion magazines for perfume ads
  • examine memoirs of Japanese atrocity during the Second World War
  • investigate the history of English language education in China in recent centuries
  • study the strategies of disaster press control to maintain CCP legitimacy and authority
  • examine the life of Shanghai Gangster Du Yue Sheng caught in between the communists and nationalists

Advisor Assignments 导师布置作业

During the first few days of the senior year–and, whenever possible, during the spring semester of the junior year–students should discuss possible projects with the program chair and with other members of the Chinese faculty. During the semesters in which a student is registered for 401 and 451-452, he or she has the responsibility of conferring regularly (usually weekly) with the adviser and of meeting deadlines indicated by the adviser. After the adviser has been appointed and the topic chosen, the student’s first meeting with the adviser should be devoted to a careful review of the information contained in this guide and to establishing a plan for determining and meeting deadlines. Although deadlines will vary with the student, the adviser, and the nature of the project, the following model is proposed as an effective schedule for 451:

  • Week 3: Topic 命题 selected and carefully defined (in writing) in one page
  • Week 5: Critical Approach/Methodology defined (in writing) in one page 研究方案
  • Week 6: Preliminary Bibliography in one page 书单目录
    Week 9: Preliminary Outline in no less than 3 pages; 研究计划大纲
    Week 10: Detailed Outline 大纲明细
    Week 12: 10 pages completed and edited
    Week 14: Significant Piece of Writing completed (25 pages)

By the end of the semester in which students have registered for 451, they should expect to have essentially completed the research for their project and to have produced a detailed outline of the entire paper to come. They should also expect to submit to their advisers prior to the end of the semester some significant piece of writing (approximately 20 pages). Students who fail to meet these criteria will not receive credit for Chinese 451. Chinese 452 is primarily devoted to the writing and the revision of the thesis. The editing should be done as the student incorporates the adviser’s advice, feedback, suggestions and objections. The protocol is when you edit or revise, you need to highlight yellow the new text so that the adviser would know where to look and then remove the highlight color if and when the writing is deemed clear and adequate. The student should respond to the adviser’s feedback in a timely manner and make corrections or changes as soon as possible. (Note: your exchanges with the adviser is also a part of your work to be graded, which can take place in writing or in person during weekly meetings; this would also remove or alleviate the anxiety about the orals in Chinese.) Submit a complete and revised rough draft of the entire thesis to the advisor two weeks prior to spring break. Once spring break begins, the advisor has no further responsibilities until he or she receives the final copy of the thesis.

Choice of A Project 选择题目

The topic of the Senior Thesis should be developed within the context of a student’s prior course work and of the focus the student has been pursuing within the major; this is not the time to begin entirely new work for which a student has no prior preparation. The adviser may require appropriate evidence of preparation for the proposed project, including prior course work, personal study, or a portfolio. Possible areas of inquiry vary considerably: for example, study of a genre or type of text; in-depth analysis of a selected text or texts; inquiry into an issue relevant to linguistics or foreign language instruction; the translation or the editing of a text, completed by a critical introduction; investigation into a particular historical, social, or cultural context; study of a writer in relation to her or his culture; etc. All projects should include a discussion of the purposes 目的 of the inquiry and should identify the means (methodological and theoretical) 研究方案 by which the project addresses those purposes. Students should verify that primary 原著 and secondary source materials 辅助文献 can be obtained in the original Chinese to support a given project. Although students may well include some secondary source materials in English, in no circumstances can such scholarship constitute the majority of the sources consulted.

Students who study in China or Taiwan during the junior year are encouraged to collect any primary and secondary source materials that might prove useful in researching the Senior Thesis. This is particularly appropriate in the case of projects that focus on popular culture topics (e.g. music, television or contemporary film, magazines, etc.), on current political events, and on regional concerns.

Length of Project and Double Major

Independent Study projects in Chinese typically range from 40-50 pages, but length will vary to some extent depending on the specific nature of the project. An expected length should be agreed on in conference between the adviser and the student. Although topics clearly cannot be treated adequately in a very short paper (under 40 pages) and excessive length (over 60 pages) is often the result of inadequate revision, quality, not quantity, is the chief criterion in judging all independent study projects.

For double-majors who need to follow and satisfy the benchmarks of excellence in another department, the length of writing in Chinese varies. In these cases involving writing in both English and Chinese, the length for Chinese part should not be less than half the whole body of the I.S. text, including the annotated bibliographies, citations, or transcriptions in Chinese that you append to your I.S.. Since the set of language skills we expect in our graduates also include reading, speaking and listening, we take as signs of good scholarship when you are able to read in the original language the key portion of the Chinese texts during your research, and explain yourself clearly in speech during your orals in Chinese. Your translation and/or transcription (from audio or video tapes) also counts towards Chinese writing, whether in the main body of the I.S. text or in the bibliography or footnotes.

* Students should be aware that they may apply for funding from the Henry J. Copeland Fund for Independent Study (http://www.wooster.edu/vpaa/copelandfund.php) to visit other libraries, to subsidize travel for purposes of research, or to purchase essential primary or secondary sources. The deadline to apply for such funds is normally early in the fall semester of the senior year, although some funds for summer research are made available in April of the junior year; students should consult with their advisers about the appropriateness of making such application.


Majors in Chinese are normally expected to write their Senior Thesis in Chinese. In exceptional circumstances, however, students may petition the chair for permission to write a portion of the project in English. Such circumstances might include the following: double majors for whom no faculty member in the second department is able to read Chinese. Students who seek permission to write in English should consult with their adviser and with the Chair of the program. Before the end of the third week of 451, the student must present a written request to the Chair. The request should be in English and should include a full and detailed justification; the chair or any member of the department may request to see additional samples of the student’s written work in English. The decision to write the thesis in English will have no effect on its final evaluation and grading. The choice of the language of the thesis will in no way affect the research process. In all cases students will select topics, as indicated above, for which adequate documentation in Chinese in available. Similarly, all conferences for Chinese 451 will be conducted in Chinese.

Some bilingual and double major I.S. projects involve summaries in Chinese. By summary, it is meant translating your ideas into Chinese when and if possible, or writing a new narrative in Chinese equivalent and comparable to the English when and if direct word-for-word translation is awkward both stylistically and intellectually. Such Chinese rendition should do justice to the quality of the scholarship in English; this is because some theories and abstract concepts have no perfect equivalents in a different language or culture. In such cases, a summary is in order. However, a summary does not necessarily mean a shorter or simpler version of the English narrative, as it may even take more to say the same thing in Chinese. Writing in Chinese also means to comply with the rhetorical and discursive conventions within which a Chinese person with no English would feel familiar. The goal is to not compromise the integrity of your own speaking/writing style or the quality of your scholarship when doing a bilingual I.S.

College Regulations on the Responsibilities of the Adviser

The responsibilities of the adviser are as follows:

1. to encourage the student to attempt an inquiry or project of appropriate rigor within the limitations of the student’s potential, the time available, and the College’s and the student’s access to resources (library, laboratory, studio, computer, field work facilities, etc.);

2. to advise the student toward the successful completion of the chosen I.S., meeting the general College specifications as interpreted by the department;

3. to be available to meet regularly with the student and help guide the research process; while the length and structure of meetings will vary by discipline and for the individual student, on average faculty members should expect to be available for each advisee for between forty-five minutes and an hour each week;

4. to assist with the editing of the I.S. thesis according to the following guidelines:

a. On all drafts of the thesis/project, including the final draft if received by the deadlines specified below, the adviser is responsible for indicating to the student typical errors of logic, style, and mechanics, etc., which may occur. He or she is not required to edit and proofread these drafts paragraph by paragraph and sentence by sentence. The editing of any draft by the adviser does not imply the ultimate acceptability of the thesis.

b. After the completed I.S. thesis/project is submitted and evaluated, the adviser is responsible for indicating to the student any specific typographical and mechanical errors that must be corrected before the document is filed.

c. If the deficiencies in the final copy extend beyond “specific typographical and mechanical errors,” then the student must re-enroll for 452 in a subsequent semester. Students who enroll in Summer Session to complete I.S. 452 will not be given a reduced tuition fee.

College Regulations on Deadlines

Departments and advisers may impose deadlines for the purpose of commenting and advising when the work is in progress. The student may not expect editorial comment, guidance, and advice on drafts of the thesis or versions of the project submitted after the eighth week of the semester in which the student enrolls in I.S. 452. Two bound copies of the I.S. thesis are due in the Registrar’s office by 5:00 p.m. on the first day of classes following Spring Recess or four weeks prior to the end of classes for Spring Semester, whichever date is sooner. For an independent study thesis completed in the Fall Semester, the due date is four weeks prior to the end of classes. Any extension to the I.S. thesis deadline can only be granted by the Dean of the Faculty in advance and only with the support of the I.S. adviser.

Each student is also required to submit to the College a digital copy of his or her thesis for archiving, granting to the College and its employees a nonexclusive royalty-free license to archive it and make it accessible, in whole or in part, in any medium. The student retains all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis.

Any delay in turning in a thesis beyond the deadlines specified above automatically establishes the grade of I for the thesis. The conditions for changing the I to a passing grade will be established by the Dean of the Faculty after consultation with the student’s adviser. The I automatically becomes NC two weeks after the deadline for the submission of the thesis unless prior approval for an extension of the I has been given by the Dean. No thesis turned in after the deadline will receive a grade of Honors without the unanimous vote of the department and the approval of the Dean.

The Oral Exam

In the weeks following submission of the final copy of the project to the Registrar, the student is examined by the advisor and by a second reader, at a time that is mutually convenient for all three participants. The oral is normally conducted in the language of the thesis. At the beginning of the exam, the student will be invited to make a brief statement (approximately 5 minutes). Students may choose to summarize significant aspects of their work, outline the problems they now perceive in the project, or further develop their conclusions. The oral exam then proceeds as an inquiry into the project’s purposes and results, including questions of style, form, methodology, and documentation. Students should expect factual and interpretive questions on any aspect of their project, including the bibliography. In all cases, the second reader takes primary responsibility for conducting the oral. The student’s performance on the oral exam is considered by the two readers in determining the grade. Upon completion of the oral exam, the adviser and the second reader will immediately determine whether or not the independent study thesis is judged to be satisfactory and will so inform the student. After further consultation, and within 48 hours of the oral, the adviser will inform the student of the grade that the project has received. A copy of this evaluation will be filed with the chairperson of the department. The prime copy of the thesis is returned to the student; the department retains the second copy. Students may be asked to make minor alterations before the copy is accepted. The second reader is responsible for providing the student with a written evaluation of the thesis prior to the end of the semester in which the student is registered for Chinese 452. The written evaluation will address specifically the elements of content, method, and form and the manner in which these have been combined in the realization of the project.

As you prepare to respond to the written questions, understand that the content counts as much as the form. What you say matters as much as how you say it. This includes the ways in which you

  • push us (your adviser and second reader) to clarify our own questions,
  • paraphrase our questions so as to answer them how you want to answer them,
  • introduce your thoughts by referring and directing our attention to the pages of your I.S. or to outside sources not included,
  • demand an explanation or definition of a word or term whose meaning you don’t understand,
  • challenge the tacit assumptions behind a statement or question,
  • own up to your inadequacy of knowledge and information, and
  • acknowledge and register your horizon (limitation), biases, and personal interests that shape your views.

These rhetorical techniques and styles of intellectual discourse deserve as much recognition as your scholarship itself.

College Regulations on Grading
In evaluating the I.S. project the faculty readers will consider the following three elements and the manner in which these are combined in the realization of the project:

The choice of the I.S. thesis topic should reflect a considered judgment as to the significance and manageability of the subject, and the completed project should represent a serious and systematic attempt to deal with it by having used effectively the available resources. An awareness of what has and has not been accomplished should be part of the presentation of the project.

The methods chosen should be stated and followed. The choices involved in the design should be made clear, and an appreciation of its uses and limits should be one of the results of the project.

Form is an essential element of clear expression. The project should reflect explicit attention to the requirements of form for a given discipline, field, or mode of expression.

Independent Study projects are graded as follows:

Honors: Outstanding in terms of content, method, and form. Good: Significantly above average in terms of content, method, and form.

Satisfactory: Acceptable overall in terms of content, method, and form, though consideration may be given to balancing weakness in one area by strength in another.

No Credit: Seriously deficient in content, method, or form with no compensating strengths in other areas.

Honors and the I.S. Thesis

A graduating senior will receive departmental honors by attaining all of the following:

1. A cumulative grade point average of 3.500 or better for all courses completed in Chinese.
2. A cumulative grade of 3.200 or better for all courses completed at the College.
3. Honors for the I.S. Thesis or the unanimous vote of the program that the student’s overall performance in the major is of the quality to merit honors.